The packs of dogs prowling the streets of Bucharest are dangerous to begin with, and this is even more true in the winter when food is scarce. They become vicious and unpredictable. They attack from the back, they work together, they are desperate. I fear them. The culling of the Bucharest street dogs has been called for many times. It has been done before, with mixed results. Romanians love dogs, in general, and it's hard to push through anything which looks like a cull. So they are doing it differently now, but they are doing it with a vengeance. Why? Because on Sunday, a member of the Japanese Embassy died after a dog bite.
From what I've been hearing, the man was attacked Sunday night and died because one of the bites tore open a vein. He bled to death before anybody could do anything. It's not as if this happened somewhere in the outskirts of Bucharest. Nicolae Titulescu is a 15 minutes walk from our house, off Piata Victoriei. Now, the dogs are pulled off the streets again. No, they are not killed. But an amendment to the law that will be pressed through in a hurry says that dogs picked up from the streets are to be kept at the shelters for 72 hours now and not for 15 days anymore. They are then to be sterilized and then... well, what happens then I have not been able to find out. It's a bit sad that it takes the death of someone (and of a foreign diplomat to boot) in order for the stalled campaign to move again. The stray dog situation is a political mess. 70 to 80 people are bit every day in Bucharest but politicians are fighting over cognizances. Nothing has been done in the last two years, after the Animal Monitoring Agency was dismantled and its activities were taken over by the District of Bucharest from the City of Bucharest. (Still with me? I said it was a mess.) Blame for the suspended "stray dog campaign" which had been introduced by Basescu (then mayor) in 2001 is handed out in troves. Nobody is responsible and it's always the other one's fault. But it's not only the politicians. People are picking up dogs from the shelters only to set them free again. What the hey? That is an extremely short-sighted thing to do but it's impossible to argue with dog lovers. Almost all Romanians I've talked to said two things: Yes, the dogs are a problem. No, they should not be killed. I'm going to make myself really unpopular now: I say, kill them all. As a mother of three kids, who has herself been attacked, who has a friend who needed rabies shots after a bite, and who sees the packs roaming the streets, I am very firm on this one. Pull the damn dogs off the streets and cull them. Introduce a steep dog tax. Register dogs, give them tags. Give them stupid microchips so irresponsible owners who set their dogs free can be traced and penalized. It's time to get this problem solved once and for all, so that the citizens of Bucharest can wander their streets without fear. It would be nice if all the tourist guides had to be reprinted, too. Harsh? Maybe. But come to Bucharest and meet a pack. And then we talk again.